So I won’t for very long.
Bands such as Slint from Louisville and Don Caballero from Pittsburgh (though not very much alike at all) launched a great many — too many — sterile and clinically proficient plagiarists that provided further indie – white guy – comfort food for the ears.
Nowadays, the instrumental band — outside of experimental groups — is a novel throwback model; rather retro, not quite nostalgic. These bands’ names tend to be a testament to bland personalities, often referring to common items of modernity: cars, buildings.
Some adventurous bands might consult the stars or reference nautical themes. Heh.
In fact, it depresses me that I can often judge a band by its lackluster name and the knowledge that it is of a particular sound.
The Psychic Paramount was born out of the dissolution of the fantastic band, Laddio Bolocko, who called it a day in 2001.
I recall them often being mentioned in the same breath as experimental greats This Heat and rightly so as they, too, featured textured guitar work, bombastic drumming, elements of free jazz, and weren’t afraid to get their “sound-hands” dirty in the studio, often changing up tones and sounds on the drums and other assorted instruments.
So where do you go after a band like Laddio Bolocko?
The answer, actually, is: not terribly far.
There often are moments on The Psychic Paramount’s latest release, II, that could have sat nicely on a Laddio release.
However, these are only occasional familiarities and that made me recently revisit the prior band’s catalog and realize that Laddio Bolocko’s sound was A LOT of moments, put together in a incredibly interesting sequence.
The preceding band sounded like an ongoing, sonic collage, moving in and out of sounds and places but pacing the experience as if you are moving by this action; they were a very kinetic band and seemed as if they were traveling toward an end. It sounds as if they knew there was a short amount of time to preach their gospel before expiration, before demise.
The Psychic Paramount is not like this at all.
Their latest album displays a refinement of this sound in a very disciplined manner. While an urgency looms throughout the album, even when it lets up now and again, I never feel as if I am listening to tinkering or something that is a bit of this before moving into a bit of that, which lends the overall album a very cohesive quality.
As a guitar player creeping up on middle age, I find that I am sometimes more excited by a fifteen-year-old playing out of tune than I am by rock dinosaurs copping blues riffs. (I have committed rock ‘n roll blasphemy on more than one occasion by comparing the highly regarded and proficient Eric Clapton to the listening equivalent of reading the dictionary rather than a really great and imaginative novel. Yes, he knows all of the words — but there is no interesting sequence to any of them.)
In instrumental music, effect pedals often dominate the terrain and the actual playing of the instrument sounds almost secondary. Guitar cliches in every genre have folded on top of themselves so many times that the idea of “rock” as some sort of wild and revolutionary movement is downright comedic.
I am very much in love with Drew St. Ivany’s guitar work on this album because it never steps into guitar-land wankery and stays interesting throughout. The tones and sounds remain organic and seem to mostly vary by St. Ivany’s physical attack of the strings more than via a great deal of obvious effect use.
(There are plenty of effects but nothing that compensates for a lack of imagination on the instrument; nor do effects ever trump the actual physical act of guitar-playing. Dig?)
If St. Ivany and bassist Ben Armstrong have another collective talent besides the music they perform, it might be the ability to find monster drummers. I was a huge fan of the drums on Laddio Bolocko recordings and now I have The Psychic Paramount’s Jeff Conaway to be mesmerized by on record and live.
Just . . . incredible.
As for a comprehensive labeling of their music and sound, The Psychic Paramount might only conjure generic language (science fiction, psych, miiiiiiind expaaaaaanding, etc.), but that would be due more to our limited vocabulary in the English language rather than it be any fault of this extremely talented and imaginative band.
Live — is live. Very alive. There are no words for the assault on the senses The Psychic Paramount executes when performing. Having just returned from a tour opening for the legendary Jesus and Mary Chain, The Psychic Paramount continues to fine tune its particular brand of sonic machinery without ever allowing a listener to grow bored.
This is not terribly common when it comes to instrumental music.
Don’t miss them.